Eastern Cape education department ‘violating pupils' rights to education’

SAHRC receives complaint about ‘failure to supply stationery and textbooks’

The Eastern Cape education department is being taken to task for failing to supply stationery and textbooks in time for the reopening of schools in the province. Stock photo.
The Eastern Cape education department is being taken to task for failing to supply stationery and textbooks in time for the reopening of schools in the province. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/olegdudko

An association of school governing bodies has complained to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) about the Eastern Cape education department’s failure to supply stationery and textbooks in time for the reopening of schools next Wednesday.

Jaco Deacon, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools (Fedsas), which represents 2,000 governing bodies nationally, confirmed the complaint was lodged with the SAHRC on Friday.

This follows a circular dated January 12 sent by the provincial education department to schools asking them to use some of the stationery provided last year.

Thembani Mtyida, acting deputy director-general for institutional operations management, informed schools that “the unprecedented budget shortfall affected the delivery of LTSM [learner teacher support material] both in terms of adhering to the nationally prescribed timelines and also the timeous determination of quantities of LTSM per grade per child”.

He said after consultations with the department of basic education and provincial treasury, funds were made available in December.

“This meant procurement processes could only resume at this time with some key role players already winding up for the December vacation and hence the department was able to fully embark on the processes in January.”

Mtyida said because of budgetary constraints, the department could not provide textbooks previously ordered by schools.

The department will prioritise the delivery of textbooks for new schools and new grades, maths and English first additional language textbooks and top-up textbooks for matric pupils.

Textbooks will be delivered to all schools between March and May, according to the circular.

A total of 1,614 schools will receive their stationery from January 12 to 25 while 3,196 schools will receive theirs later in January and in February.

These schools have no financial resources other than that allocated by the state. They depend on the provincial education department for everything, from pencils and paper to water and electricity.
Juané van der Merwe, manager of legal services at Fedsas,

Fedsas urged the SAHRC to urgently investigate the complaint and “stop officials from the Eastern Cape education department committing unlawful actions and violating pupils’ rights to education through failure to carry out their constitutional duty”.

Juané van der Merwe, manager of legal services at Fedsas, said the department had a long history of incompetence and a lack of understanding of the duties of a provincial education department.

“To add insult to injury, the department also told schools to use stationery from last year. This despite the fact that last year’s grant was barely sufficient for the 2021 school year.”

She said the right to basic education was not a right that was subject to the availability of resources or other determining factors.

“It is a duty that has to be executed irrespective of circumstances, least of all the inability to budget properly.”

Van der Merwe said schools that will suffer the most are the “no fee” schools.

“These schools have no financial resources other than that allocated by the state. They depend on the provincial education department for everything, from pencils and paper to water and electricity.”

Fedsas has also written a letter to the Eastern Cape education department demanding that all schools in the province be provided with sufficient teaching and learning support material before schools reopen.

“If not, Fedsas will institute legal proceedings that might result in officials being held liable in their personal capacity.”

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